Social Question

ibstubro's avatar

I learned through a 3rd party that a dear, but casual, female friend has breast cancer. What is an appropriate response for a male in this situation?

Asked by ibstubro (18770points) February 23rd, 2015

First off, “dear, but casual” means that we get along super well and we ‘get’ each other, but are both in committed relationships. We’ve spent little time alone, but we’ve chatted quite a bit, blown off steam and supported each other.

A mutual friend came up to me yesterday and said, “Lisa wants you to know that she’s really sorry that she hasn’t been around or been to the auction lately, but she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and she’s really busy with that.” You have to know Lisa to know that this is not drama, not a sympathy bid, but just a statement on the state of her life.

I want to acknowledge that I know and express my support, but it’s awkward. Any suggestions?

She’s really, really busy and it’s always hard to get her on the phone.

This may be my only relationship question, so be nice.

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16 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Go and support her and let her know you care. Cancer scares the hell out of the patient and the people around her. It takes a strong friend to say I’ll be there for you. Give her hope, but don’t bullshit her. Be there for her. Not easy, but she’ll appreciate it.

CWOTUS's avatar

I don’t think there’s any reason for this to be awkward. She was incredibly considerate, I think, to enable you to receive the news via a third party so that you wouldn’t have to manage any particular immediate reaction. (I’ll have to remember that in case I ever get a life-threatening illness; that was an extremely thoughtful and classy move on her part, and you can tell her I said so.)

So you speak to her from the heart, as you would anyway, and tell her your feelings – and a joke, I would think. She’ll be in need of good ones.

janbb's avatar

First of all, she is a dear friend from what you describe; no need to qualify it. If you feel she is too busy to talk on the phone or you are scared of it, then send her a nice, caring note that is handwritten and says what you want to say and any practical suggestions for help that you want to offer. Maybe follow it up with a phone call in a week or two. – “just to check in.”

chyna's avatar

Cancer breaks all rules. You can’t worry about how something looks or that your gesture is mistaken. You talk to her and let her know you care as a friend and you will be there for her for anything she needs.

jca's avatar

I like the note idea from @janbb, or if you happen to see her, just give her a big hug and she will feel what you are feeling. Tell her that you’re here for her if she needs anything. Keep it simple.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Ideally, speak to her in person or by phone but beyond that, send her a letter and offer her your support if she needs it. Whether that be driving her to treatment, or listening if she’s down. If she likes flowers, you could send her some flowers or something similar to cheer her up (not everyone likes flowers so use your knowledge of your friend here).

zenvelo's avatar

Communicate the way everyone else is saying. The important thing is to offer support, and also to ask what you can do to help her-give her rides, do grocery shopping, cook her meals. Clean her house.

I have a friend who went through breast cancers treatment three years ago, friends organized weekly house cleaning for her and she said it was an incredible gift.

Best wishes for your friend.

Coloma's avatar

I can’t add much to the above but..I like @zenvelo approach. Offer what is needed in the way of hands on help, if needed, post surgery help or just let her know you’re there for her. I took my good friend to and from her appts and for her lumpectomy a few years ago. She too just discovered another hot spot a few weeks ago and is now preparing for surgery #2.

I am there for whatever she needs, help, just go to lunch and talk, whatever she wants in the moment.

JLeslie's avatar

I would communicate with her however you typically communicate. Do you text? Message? If talking to her tends to be difficult. The letter is a lovely idea, but if you tend to be very informal with her it might not be necessary.

I’d just somehow say you heard she is dealing with breast cancer and want to help in any way you can and that she should not hesitate to ask (if you actually are able to help). If she opens up and starts telling you what she is dealing with in terms of emotions and treatment you can respond to those things more specifically. It might be sitting with her during a chemo treatment or picking her up from the hospital. Or, just planning a visit at home or a day out.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

What they all so beautifully say above. Do not neglect her, just let her know you are there discreetly but solidly and that she should let you know when she needs friends around more than usual. I mean be there but allow for some alone time. A listener rather than a talker is what is needed and no treading on eggshells around her. Life goes on as usual but with more support. Hope it has a positive end.

canidmajor's avatar

If she is having treatment, she is tired. I would recommend not calling, as maintaining a spontaneous conversation can be exhausting. I also would suggest the note, express your concern but in no way intimate that you need some sort of reassurance. Maybe suggest you would love to talk to her sometime if she feels up to it. Inject some humor. I wouldn’t ask her what you can do, that puts a burden on her to deal with it. Think of some things, meals delivered from favorite restaurants, perhaps, errands run maybe, and ask her family what would be most helpful.
The expression of friendship and concern is the most important. It really does help to know that people care.

I wish for your friend a healthy recovery.

ibstubro's avatar

Thanks for all the great, compassionate advice.

I’m going to call today, see if she’d like to meet up later in the week. Traditionally she maintains a crazy schedule of meetings and keeping her museum open, but I’ll at least touch base and let her know I’m here and thinking about her.

I’m not great about the personal stuff, but I’ll try to keep you kids posted, if there’s progress to report.

Sincere thanks. You’d all love her. She’s a very large, upbeat, ‘natural blonde’ that is very grounded on the one hand and wildly optimistic on the other. Impossible to imagine that she won’t beat the cancer.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@ibstubro may I ask if this illness is in the family? Again all the best to a lovely person.

ibstubro's avatar

No, I have no family, @ZEPHYRA, but for a brother and a couple of cousins.
It’s one of those friends that I bonded with, instantly.

janbb's avatar

FWIW, they seem to have pretty good rates of success with treating breast cancer these days.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@ibstubro nooooooooo, I meant if this lady has breast cancer running in the family! Sorry if it was not clear, my anti-anxiety medication is probably showing its side-effects again!

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